Pitchers Jackson Rutledge (the left-hander), Anthony Dahl and Dylan Thompson have left the Arkansas program.
Rutledge will transfer to a junior college. Dahl and Thompson, who have both battled some injuries, are going to stop playing baseball and focus on finishing their degree programs at Arkansas.
On the injury front, Carson Shaddy (wrist) will be re-evaluated in about four weeks. He has some tendonitis in his wrist that was caused by a weight-lifting incident.
Luke Bonfield (hamstring), Kacey Murphy (back) and Eric Cole (back) all should be 100 percent by the time preseason practice begins in a couple of months. Murphy and Evan Lee are the two candidates to start Game 3 behind Blaine Knight and Isaiah Campbell.
Cole Turney (shoulder) is going to be cleared to start swinging the bat next month. He might not be able to throw when the season begins, but he should at least be available as a DH. It might take him some time to work his way into the lineup, but his bat was considered one of the best in high school last year.
If Arkansas were opening tomorrow, I think the lineup might look like this:
C - Grant Koch
1B - Jared Gates
2B - Carson Shaddy
3B - Jack Kenley
SS - Jax Biggers
LF - Heston Kjerstad
CF - Dominic Fletcher
RF - Eric Cole
DH - Luke Bonfield
SP - Blaine Knight
Kjerstad and Bonfield are kind of interchangeable at DH and in outfield. Kjerstad is probably a little better defender, and projects to be a better defender by the end of his career. This assumes they will rotate in left, but right field might be an option, with Eric Cole sliding to left field.
Third is probably the other position where there could be some rotation. Kenley is the fielder they like best at third, but Casey Martin and Easton Murrell still could factor in there. Jared Gates also is an option at third, with someone like Jordan McFarland or Evan Lee filling in at first base.
Any freshman pitchers ready to compete this year. Know several were highly rated coming in including an Arkansan or 2.
I think Jackson Rutledge and Caleb Bolden could potentially be midweek starters, and I think both will factor into the bullpen. Rutledge’s size (6-8, 260) and velocity pass the eye test, but his control is up and down. Bolden looks pretty polished for a freshman. His velocity is good and I’ll be interested to see if it jumps anymore after a few more months lifting weights; he came in kind of scrawny. Early returns look like he was a steal this summer and he is the one freshman I could see competing for a starting job on the weekend.
Bryce Bonnin probably is a bullpen guy. He’s kind of in the same mold as Rutledge, although not nearly as big. He hasn’t pitched a lot but can touch 96-97. It reminds me a little of what they had with Trevor Stephan in terms of being able to work with him early in his pitching career. Bonnin is also a pretty good hitter, but he’s going to focus on pitching this year. He might be a two-way player in the future and he provides a body they could use in a pinch, either as a base-runner, pinch-hitter, etc. Having two-way potential with him and Evan Lee adds some flexibility to the 27-man travel roster.
I did not see any of Hunter Milligan this fall and did not hear a lot about him. He is a left-hander with credentials, but there are some older lefties ahead of him. I was not impressed with the little I saw of Zebulon Vermillion. The hitters kind of teed off on him the two times that I saw him pitch, including the first inning of a start during a scrimmage.
The jury is out on Kole Ramage, a right-hander. He was effective one of the times that I saw him pitch and not real good the other. I think he probably will pitch in 2018. He could be a short reliever on the weekend or innings-eater in the midweek. As a side note, a fun stat on him is that he was a kicker for Southlake Carroll and made a 55-yard field goal as a senior during a game against one of the Tulsa schools; Union, I think.
One note that I would add on freshman pitchers: College fall practice is a grind for them because they are not used to throwing so much. They basically pitch from the start of their senior year of high school in February until the end of fall practice in late October, and most play some sort of summer ball in between; not a lot of rest. A college freshman basically is throwing a month or two months longer than he is accustomed when fall ball is factored in.
Your first post in this thread states Jackson Rutledge is transferring, but you later answered the poster’s question that he could have an impact in mid-week games. What gives?
There were two pitchers named Jackson Rutledge on the fall roster. The one transferring is a redshirt freshman left-hander from Louisiana; the one staying is a true freshman right-hander from St. Louis.
Will Scroggins be available in the Spring?
I do not think so. I think the target return for him is late spring/early summer. He should probably be able to go through fall practice next year and pitch in 2019.
The standard line in the fall, which Jackson Rutledge is the real deal? It’s the righthander.
I am so glad that there will be just one on the spring roster. Simplifies things.
There was little doubt that the best one was the 6-8 righthander. He’s fun to watch.
Heston Kjeestad is the one that jumped out at me in the fall, along with Casey Martin.
This may be one of the best recruiting classes Arkansas has brought in. There is lots of pitching and lots of help in the field. There is more depth at catcher than I can recall. The two freshmen catchers and the redshirt from TCU (Zack Plunkett) are dynamite players.
I think you will see a jump in some returnees like Jared Gates. He was playing with a weak wrist last year after breaking a bone in the last scrimmage before the start of the season. He’s much stronger in all areas, especially in the lower body.
Jax Biggers is a terrific player at shortstop and I think you will see improvement from Dominic Fletcher and Grant Koch in the middle of the lineup, too.
Yes, I like this team a lot. It may be as talented of an all-around team that Dave Van Horn has fielded.